Chet Huntley and David Brinkley

This post first appeared a decade ago, in March 2012. Since then – from my perspective – things have only gotten worse. Forty years ago, I habitually read The New York Times from cover to cover. I trusted the writers who were committed to writing the truth and to attributing their facts to sources. Today, I have little trust and faith in the media. Fifty years ago, I had no knowledge if Huntley and Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, or Peter Jennings were Republicans or Democrats, but I believed they were reporting the truth as accurately as they were aware of it.

Last Friday, I viewed an interesting film, “To Save a Life” that opened with a young, friendless boy walking into his high school, firing a handgun into the air to get everyone’s attention, and then turning the gun upon himself…

One year ago, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously shot in the head less than five miles from my home…

This morning, my daughter-in-law called Mrs. tVM to express her concern about an incident of vandalism at the high school not far from her home…

Later in the day, Mrs. tVM reported to me the Chardin High School shooting incident near Cleveland that claimed the life of one student a week ago… I wasn’t even aware of this and countless other incidents of violence and vandalism whose significance was dwarfed by the celebrity passing of what’s-her-name… then there is the incident in Jacksonville, Florida today at Episcopal High School where a fired Spanish teacher killed the headmaster… 

These incidents bring to mind Socrates Test of Three: 

Truth, Goodness, and Usefulness.

It makes no difference to me whether or not Socrates actually developed this test, said it or lived it.  Regardless of its source, the value of the test is fundamental.  As the story goes, Socrates advises that you apply this test before you repeat a rumor.

  • Is it true?  If it’s not, keep your mouth shut.
  • Is it good?  If it’s not, don’t repeat it if you are not certain it is true.
  • Is it useful?  If what you are about to say is neither true, good or useful, there is no point in repeating it.

I propose applying similar logic to vandalism and violence.

If the graffiti you are about to write on the school wall is untrue, save your chalk and paint, and seek better words to write.

If the action you are about to take is not a good action, rather bad and hurtful, hold your hand and stay the action.

If the action serves no useful purpose to anyone other than your selfish self, don’t do it.  Toss it out the window.

Now go back and think of true, good and useful things you can do with you time and resources that will benefit those around you.  Rather than writing obscenities on a school wall, if you are compelled to write something,  write, “God is Love” on the sidewalk or the blacktop so that all who pass this way can read it.  Those three words are true, good and useful to all who read them.

Good Graffiti

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  1. Ever since I read several months ago your first sharing of the three criteria for speaking about another, I have tried to hold onto the practice by watching what I say. I am surprised at how often I was repeating things that ‘were true, afterall.’ I view the betterment of my comments, or silence, as small pebbles in the pool of achieving peacefulness.I note that I had too many failures the first week of Lent as I had hoped this would be a very successful Lenten Practice !

    1. Mahatma Gandhi speaks truth when he says,

      Gods word is:
      “He who strives never perishes.”
      I have implicit faith in that promise.
      Though, therefore from my weakness
      I fail a thousand times,
      I shall not lose faith.